Feeling The Gay Christian Tension in the South

 Photo by Blaire Bohlen || Courtesy of The Reformation Project

Photo by Blaire Bohlen || Courtesy of The Reformation Project

The other day I innocuously quoted the Bible in an Instagram DM to another gay and he was very taken aback. He seemed outright shocked and concerned that I made a biblical reference and may be a Christian, as that would discredit me in most everything I said from then on. And that’s fair, Christians deserve to be discredited, or scrutinized at the very least. The greed, hypocrisy, and uncomfortably strong influence in political discourse is really just a few of the reasons why American Evangelical Christians should sit down and have a long think about the mess we’re in as a country, and their contributions to it.

Christianity makes up a third of the world’s religious views, but it’s Evangelicalism in the American South that barks the loudest when talking about sexuality. There are plenty of sects of Christianity that don’t hold such a strong view on the subject. Jesus, by contrast, apparently had other things on his mind and didn’t have a lot to say on the spectrum of sexuality. Nevertheless, to understand southern queer culture is to understand queer people’s relationship to Christianity, ‘cause for better or worse, it’s a huge piece of the puzzle for so many.

Speaking from experience, the conversation surrounding LGBTQ youth, culture, and the Church is a fraught, complicated one. Despite all the progress in media and politics in recent decades, we’re learning very quickly how little that can really matter in our current landscape. The unstoppable force of our real-time, digitally fueled social revolution has met its match; the unshakable faith of those dear to us who truly, in their heart of hearts, believe that we as queer people are damned to an eternity of hell. Combine that with political and private profiteers who benefit off closed-mindedness and religious fundamentalism, and you have an entire system and society hellbent on convincing millions of young people that their feelings are wrong, or at the very least something to be ashamed of.

 Photo by Blaire Bohlen || Courtesy of The Reformation Project

Photo by Blaire Bohlen || Courtesy of The Reformation Project

Earlier in 2018, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concluded that “religion-based services for mental health and suicide prevention may not benefit gay/lesbian, bisexual, or questioning individuals. Religion-based services providers should actively assure their services are open and supportive of gay/lesbian, bisexual, or questioning individuals.” Meaning, unless you’re upfront about your queer affirmation, you’re contributing to a mental health problem plaguing LGBT youth today, no matter what good that organization may do.

So why return to it? Why reference the bible on Instagram? Why come back to the faith that has violently and publicly rejected you, pushing some very young people to even end their lives over the pressure? The Christian church especially has hurt so many in our community, is it selfish or ignorant to continue living a Christian-identified life while still recognizing all the work to be done in reconciling with those who haven’t quite reached the truth that love is love?

Perhaps, some would argue, that this is the greatest challenge of their faith yet.

Kevin Garcia is a writer, speaker, and social media personality who is a genderqueer theologian as well at Columbia Theological Seminary. It's Kevin’s mission to spread the gospel through their queer identity. He explains, "I think that one of the things queer community champions is authenticity. And my faith is part of who I am, so I still unapologetically claim and practice my faith as a way of healing the wounds inflicted on me and my people."

 Kevin Garcia, PHOTO: Mark Morin @MarkMorinii

Kevin Garcia, PHOTO: Mark Morin @MarkMorinii

Kevin runs his own website where he writes blogs, publishes podcasts and YouTube videos, and other resources for LGBTQ people, allies, and those who care to see a religious perspective not often publicized or hand-crafted for honest dialogue.

The Reformation Project, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring LGBTQ inclusion into the church brings a refreshing bible-backed perspective to the Christian church. Their successes and struggles in encouraging intersectionality are fascinating and daunting at the same time. With many

Personally as the son of pastors, as a queer man, and an American, I’m constantly dealing with contradictions and hypocrisies in my beliefs, practices, and philosophies. Christianity, whether I believe in it or some other form of higher faith, is the language I was taught to understand the incomprehensible. It’s my native moral tongue that no longer controls my feelings and actions but greatly informs my understanding not just of myself living in the south but my neighbors as well, even the ones who wish to harm me and my way of life.

Understandably, this line of thinking doesn’t work for many. It’s far, far easier to discard the information as useless not just due to the violence it’s birthed, but the impracticality of walking through the threshold of a church that may not want you as a member. There, perhaps, isn’t a logical reason to put yourself in that kind of harm’s way. Though for many, myself included, there are nevertheless illogical reasons to engage. Jesus’s main teaching, the big thing you’re supposed to take away from the Bible, is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love others just the same. As easy and tempting as it is to scream into the faces of those who wish to erase the existence of I and so many others, others far more vulnerable than me, and realizing the futility of those screams, I’m thinking of taking another route.

For more resources on LGBTQ inclusion in the church, go to reformationproject.org

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Tyler Scruggs
 is a writer and musician living in Atlanta with his partner Mark. When he’s not churning out internet content, he’s paying too much for coffee and buying movie tickets week in advance. Feel free to validate him on Instagram (@Scruggernaut), Twitter (@TylerScruggs), or on Scruff (you'll know it when you see it).